Three Sisters, an Island and an Apocalyptic Tale of Survival

By Sophie Mackintosh
269 pp. Doubleday. $25.95.

In most apocalyptic tales, the reader is anticipated to simply accept sure baseline assumptions. The first is that the apocalypse is actual; the second, that the story’s essential characters characterize its truest victims. Sophie Mackintosh subverts each of these assumptions in her luxurious but sparsely written debut, “The Water Cure.”

On an island someplace close to a mainland, three ladies develop up beneath the care of their father, known as King, and their anonymous mom. King seeks to maintain all of them secure from a peculiar plague that, amongst different issues, makes girls successfully allergic to males. Nearly every little thing within the previous sentence is questionable, nevertheless — together with the character of King’s fatherly love, because it instantly turns into clear that his oldest daughter, Grace, is pregnant by him. This questionable love additionally performs out through weird “therapies” to which the three ladies are subjected with the intention to purify them of unspecified toxins. The ladies are saved on an odd weight loss plan and made to sweat themselves into unconsciousness in saunas, freeze their fingers in buckets of ice water, maintain their breath till they go out. Knowing no higher, they’re keen members; to them, that is the one secure love, on condition that they’ve been taught to concern strangers — particularly males. Men apart from King, that’s.

In one of the cruelest therapies, the household “draws the irons,” small tokens that decide who amongst them is permitted to be the main target of the others’ love. Middle woman Lia is the one most frequently left love-deficient — which has devastating results when King vanishes and, later, three strangers come to the island. The strangers are two grownup males and a younger boy, obvious refugees from no matter is occurring on the mainland. When one of the lads exhibits sexual curiosity in Lia, she responds with grasping desperation, and all three sisters react via the warped and violent lens of what love means to them.


So is that this an apocalyptic story of girls surviving in a world that has turned unusual and merciless? Perhaps extra a story of patriarchal household constructions taken to an excessive — the daddy as each predator and god, the mom a collaborator who sometimes protects, all three daughters hovering in a limbo someplace between cherished possessions and future concubines for the patriarch. There can also be a distinctly cultlike aspect to the household dynamics, from the myths that each dad and mom weave with the intention to preserve management, to the unquestioning relentlessness proven by Sky, the coddled youngest daughter, at any time when one thing threatens the household dwelling.

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